Will Chicago's harsh winter affect landscapes long term?

Will Chicago's harsh winter affect landscapes long term?

Let’s face it Chicago, it may take years to erase the cold and wet memories of the past winter and spring. Your landscaping, however, could recover sooner. 

Record snow falls in Chicago blanketed the ground from December to March, and heavy downpours flooded the area from April to June. That left homeowners across Chicagoland trying to revive their landscaping this summer, after losing many valuable trees, bushes and perennials.

So, what can homeowners expect with the fall planting season? Chicago-area landscapers weigh in on whether this summer’s wet and cooler weather in the Midwest will affect what plants thrive in the coming months and emerge next spring.

Forget last winter

Stephen Carlin is a landscape designer with highly rated Great Impressions in Naperville, Illinois. Thankfully, he says last winter’s worries are behind us. 

“The cool winter from last year already did its damage,” Carlin says. “It took out a lot of boxwoods, arborvitae, yews and roses. Let’s hope we don’t experience a winter like that again for a little while.” 

The harsh winter and cooler summer have left the soil at lower temperatures, but Carlin says that actually should help new plantings come next year.

“I believe the cooler summer will help the plants overwinter,” he says. “This current weather lessens the plant’s chance of being stressed going into the upcoming winter season, and hopefully, this will increase the rate of returning next season.”

Plant trees in the fall

While fall in Chicago may not seem like the time to start planting, fall planting is actually ideal for some plants. Bulbs for next spring, chrysanthemums, trees and shrubs all will perform well in cooler autumn temperatures.  

“Cooler temperatures and adequate moisture make the best combination,” Carlin says. “Planting in the fall provides the plant time to overwinter in the ground, and the plant spends more energy growing roots than leaves. Come spring, those plants are ready to pop with foliage.”

RELATED: How to plant a tree

Late summer gardening

If you'd rather not wait until fall to add to your garden, there are also opportunities for late summer plantings. In fact, it’s a great time to find bargains as Chicago plant nurseries unload an abundance of summer stock in preparation for new stock.

Just remember, though, adequate plant care is still required.

“While it’s stayed rather cool in temperature, and we’ve received adequate rain, we are still in the summer season,” Carlin says. “Any new plants that are installed will still require you to water them, the weather will just adjust the frequency and duration of the watering.”

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If you only fertilize once a year, do it in the fall, says Moberg. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Lauren J. of Jacksonville, Florida)
If you only fertilize once a year, do it in the fall, says Moberg. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Lauren J. of Jacksonville, Florida)

Planting in the fall gives your landscape a head start on healthy growth. Fall planting helps trees and plants get established and be ready to grow in spring.

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